A new survey from North Dakota State University’s Challey Institute shows just how ingrained the idea that students can censor others on campus is today. The Challey survey found that 74 percent of students surveyed believe that professors should be reported for saying something found offensive, while 26 percent disagree; 81 percent of liberal students and 53 percent of conservative students agree that a professor who is offensive should be reported. And, in terms of peers, 66 percent of liberal students and 37 percent of conservative students said they would also report peers who made offensive comments. This is the antithesis of a healthy collegiate environment and characterizes a powerful danger to both democracy and discourse.
A core value of a liberal education — viewpoint diversity — has been gradually eroded in higher education, and this must be reversed. What happens on our nation’s college and university campuses rarely remains on campus and becomes part of our larger sociopolitical fabric. The Inbar situation at UCLA raises numerous concerns about the legitimacy of litmus tests and diversity statements and is a troubling example of how students have become censors of what they see and hear. The fact is that college life should be challenging and upsetting, and professors and administrators should be encouraging growth and discomfort as opposed to coddling and balkanizing students. Biases should be confronted, and campus life is the last space that should promote a culture of intolerance, cancellation, and “gotcha-ism” that is infecting students.